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Ta' Qali National Park

Biodiversity at Ta' Qali National Park:

Ta' Qali National Park stands where once was a Royal Air Force airfield and barracks between 1943 and 1950. With the development of the Luqa airfield facilities, Ta’ Qali lost its importance.

Nowadays, following the introduction of a relatively vast recreational area, several people visit  the Ta’ Qali National Park for recreation and for enjoying some fresh air with family and friends. The Park offers a relaxing environment and a good break from the hassle and the urban, hectic lifestyle. Ta' Qali National Park is maintained by the Parks, Afforestation, Rural Conservation (PARC) and Initiatives Directorate within the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs (MRRA). Maintenance of the park includes regular lawn mowing, pruning of trees, irrigation of young trees and selective pest control.

However, the Ta' Qali National Park has more to offer than just picnic areas and walkways. The park boasts a wide variety of ornamental plants and trees, of both indigenous and non indigenous origin, as well as fauna species which, with some attention and observation, can be easily discovered and appreciated.

 


Fig 1. Aerial view of the central area of Ta? Qali National Park

Flora within the Park:

Upon entering the Park, paths under trellis covered with Plumbago auriculata bloom in white and blue, surrounded with planters of the spiny Carissa macrocarpa. The paths lead to the main entrance where a circle of planters with annual flowering plants surround a central fountain. Depending on the season, annuals include Pansies (Viola species), Geraniums (Pelargoniums), Limoniums, Anthirriniums, Celosias, Amaranthus, Gomphrenas, Marigolds (Tagetes) and Stocks (Matthiola incana).

The gate leads to the Formal Garden where a large variety of indigenous and non indigenous ornamental tree species are to be found. Small tracts of Mediterranean woodland have also been created by mixing indigenous tree species. Pine groves such as the Syracusa Grove and the SGS Grove within the park offer a good deal of shade especially during the summer. A good view of the Park and surrounding areas, with views up to Mdina and opposite to Naxxar, can be appreciated upon climbing the stairs to the top of the main gate. Opposite the main entrance is a large area known as the ‘Kite area’ where we find wide open spaces inter-planted with indigenous Sandarac gum trees Tetraclinis articuluta, Carobs Ceratonia siliqua and olives Olea europea, as part of the 34U campaign.

(CLICK ON THUMBNAILS TO ENLARGE)

 

2a (M. Saliba)

2b (M. Saliba)

Fig 2a Stone pine Pinus pinea (Maltese: Znuber tal-Umbrella) and 2b Judas trees Cercis siliquastrum (Maltese: Sigra ta’ Guda) are amongst the indigenous trees within the park.

 

The formal garden within the Park is planted with a large variety of indigenous and non indigenous tree species. Conifers within the park include Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis), Stone Pine (Pinus pinea), Sandarac gum tree (Tetraclinis articulata), Mediterranean cypress (Cupressus sempervivens), Norfolk Island Pine Araucaria heterophylla (Maltese: Awrikarja) and Smooth Cypress (Cupressus glabra).

Mediterranean trees within the park include Bay Laurel Laurus nobilis (Maltrese:Randa), Holm Oak Quercus ilex (Maltese: Ballut), Strawberry Tree Arbutus unedo (Maltese: Imbragla), Olive Tree Olea europea (Maltese: Zebbuga), Chaste Tree Vitex agnus castus (Maltese: Sigra tal-virgi), African Tamarisk Tamarisk africana (Maltese: Bruka), Viburnum Viburnum tinus, Common Jujube Ziziphus jujube (Maltese:Zinzel), Southern nettle tree Celtis australis (Maltese: Buglar), Judas Tree Cercis siliquastrum (Maltese: Sigra ta’Guda), European Dwarf Palm Chamaerops humilis (Maltese: Sigra tal-Gummar) and the Spanish Broom Spartium junceum (Maltese: Gennista Safra).

Non indigenous ornamental trees within the park include: Lagunaria patersonii; Erythrina variegata; Ficus elastica, Schinus molle, Jacaranda mimosifolia, Tecoma capensis, Justicia spicigera, Dodonea viscose, Firmiana simple, Parkinsonia aculeate, Washingtonia filifera, Washingtonia robusta, Malvaviscus arboreus, Cycas revolute and Ceiba speciosa.

 

 

3a (M. Saliba)

3b (M. Saliba)

 

 

3c (M. Saliba)

3d (D. Attard)

Fig 3: Ornamental trees within the park include 3a the Strawberry tree Arbutus unedo (Maltese: Imbragla),3b Jacaranda mimosifolia, 3c Erythrina variegate a deciduous tree which grows up to 15metres origin of East Africa, Asia and Australia; and 3d Ceiba speciosa. the Indian Coral tree

 

Fauna:

The variety of trees planted in the park since the early 1990s are now well established, creating habitats which attract a number of faunal species, the most evident being the birds. One can find several species of birds depending on the season. Resident birds found throughout the year in the park include the Sardinian warbler Sylvia melanocephala(Maltese: Bufula Sewda), Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis (Maltese: Ghammiel tal-Bejt), Zitting cisticola Cisticola juncidis (Maltese: Bufula tal-Imrewha), and the Collared Dove Streptolia decaocto (Maltese: Gamiema tal-Kullar). During summer the Spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata (Maltese: Zanzarell tat-Tikki) breeds within the park, while the Short toed lark Calandrella brachydactyla (Maltese : Bilbla) breeds in the open fields surrounding the park.

Winter brings several wintering bird species to the park. Robins Erithacus rubecula (Maltese: Pitirross), Stonechats Saxicola rubicola (Maltese: Bucaqq tax-Xitwa), White wagtails Motacilla alba (Maltese: Zakak Abjad) and Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris (Maltese: Sturnell) can all be easily observed foraging for insects in open areas within the park. Goldcrests Regulus regulus (Maltese: Bufula tal-Qamar) and Firecrests Regulus ignicapilla (Maltese: Bufula tat-toppu ahmar) are both common in coniferous groves during the winter, as are the Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla (Maltese: Kapiner) which are in full song in the early months of the year.

 

 

4a (D. Attard)

4b (D. Attard)

 

 

4c (D. Attard)

4d (D. Attard)

Fig 4 Bird species within the park include 4a the Whinchat Saxicola rubetra (Maltese Bucaqq tas-Silla) - a spring migrant ; and wintering species like 4b the Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris (Maltese: Sturnell); 4c the White Wagtail Motacilla alba (Maltese: Zakak abjad); and 4d the Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita (Maltese: Vjolin tax-Xitwa).

 

During spring and autumn, migration brings a number of bird species which can be observed within the park grounds including the Hoopoe Upupa epops (Daqquqa tat-toppu) which is frequently seen feeding on the ground and Woodchat shrikes Lanius senator (Maltese: Kaccamendula) are quite evident perching on lookout posts for insects in spring. Flocks of Night Heron Nicticorax nicticorax (Maltese: Kwakka) (Fig 5b) are frequently seen early in the morning descending to roost in the pine groves within the park during spring and autumn migration.

 

 

 

5a (D. Attard)

5b (D. Attard)

 

 

5c (D. Attard)

5d (D. Attard)

Fig 5 Birds within the park are evident throughout the year 5a the Spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata (Maltese: Zanzarell tat-Tikki) a spring/autumn migrant and a breeding summer resident, 5b Night Herons Nicticorax nicticorax (Maltese: Kwakka) often roost in the park during migration mostly in autumn. 5c The Robin Erithacus rubecola (Maltese: Pitirross) is an autumn migrant and winter visitor, while the Collared Dove 5d, Streptolia decaocto (Maltese: Gamiema tal-Kullar) can be seen throughout the year and also breeds within the park.

 

 

Indigenous reptile species in the park include both gecko species (Maltese: Wizgha), the Western whip snake Coluber viridiflavus (Maltese: Serp iswed), Maltese wall lizard Podarcis filfolensis melitensis (Maltese: Gremxula ta’ Malta) and the Mediterranean Chameleon Chamaeleo chamaeleon (Maltese: Kamaleonte). These can often be seen ‘sun bathing’ in a warm spot on the ground or in the trees ready to snatch passing insects. The park also has a few mammal species including the Etruscan shrew Suncus etruscus (Maltese: Gurdien geddumu twil), the Algerian hedgehog Atelerix algirus (Maltese: Qanfud) and the Weasel Mustela nivalis (Maltese: Ballotra).

 

 

6a (M. Saliba)

6b (M. Saliba)

6c (E. Portelli)

Fig. 6 Reptile species within the park include 6a the Mediterranean Chameleon Chamaeleo chamaeleon (Maltese: Kamaleonte) 6b Maltese wall lizard Podarcis filfolensis melitensis (Maltese: Gremxula ta’ Malta) and 6c Western whip snake Coluber viridiflavus (Maltese: Serp iswed).

 

Butterflies are amongst the most attractive insects in the park. Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta (Maltese: Farfett tal-Hurrieq) can be observed in autumn and winter while Painted Ladies Cynthia cardui (Maltese: Farfett tax-Xewk)are abundant in spring, summer and autumn. The elegant Swallowtail butterfly Papillo machaon melitensis (Farfett tal-Busbies) is also sometimes seen. Lanatana camara bushes attract many butterflies, bumble bees and other insects when these are in bloom. The Lobed Agriope Argiope lobata (Maltese: Brimba tal-Widien), the largest spider in the Maltese Islands is also sometimes seen in the centre of its large web which it suspends between two bushes.

 

 

 

7a (D. Attard)

7b (D. Attard)

 

 

7c (D. Attard)

7d (D. Attard)

Fig. 7 Insect species within the park include 7a Swallow tail butterfly Papillo machaon melitensis (Maltese: Farfett tal-Buzbies)7b the Red admiral Vanessa atalanta (Maltese: Farfett tal-Hurrieq);7cPainted Lady Cynthia cardui; and 7d Lobed agriope Argiope lobata (Maltese: Brimba tal-Widien).

Visiting Ta’ Qali National Park is always a rewarding experience, however in order to maintain the beauty and nature of this place everybody must act in a responsible manner. Trees should be respected and cared for by all people, young and old, and should never be harmed at all costs. Making hammocks or tree climbing are unacceptable vandalism acts. Naked flames and Barbeques are prohibited within the park. Animals should never be handled or harassed. Litter should always be deposited in appropriate waste bins. In abiding with these few rules the park can be enjoyed by everybody now and in the future.